Monday 11 July 2011
Further to your obituary of Francis King (6 July), writes Julian Machin, mention should be made of EM Forster in his life – "an extremely old man" when they were finally introduced by Joe Ackerley, causing Forster to remark, "I've wanted to meet you for so long."
King confessed to feeling more admiration of the senior novelist in his youth than he did latterly, both as a writer and an individual. He detected there an element of "a puritan for all his advocacy of sexual freedom" and he found the apparently genial Forster tougher even than the formidable Ivy Compton-Burnett. He wrote a short but illuminating life of Forster, published in 1978. Their way of writing novels cautiously overlaps, although King appears far less optimistic, despite achieving what Forster didn't in a rich life of long and straightforward partnerships. There may have been an incomprehension felt for Forster's success despite his relatively small output.
Last week, King was posthumously awarded the Royal Society of Literature's Benson Medal. He had been aware of this before his death, and in a letter read on his behalf by Peter Parker, his literary executor, he said how delighted he was to accept because previous recipients include EM Forster, "who has had so much influence on my writing and my life."
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